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Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate was an American actress who was brutally murdered by Charles Manson's sadistic followers.

She initially attracted attention for her portrayal of Mr. Drysdale's secretary on the popular television series The Beverly Hillbillies. The minor film roles she was offered in the early 1960s, progressively grew into starring roles by the end of the decade. The 1967 film Valley of the Dolls, based on the best-selling Jacqueline Susann novel of the same name, is the film with which Tate is most identified.

Roman Polanski and Tate
Roman Polanski and Tate
Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Sharon Marie Tate

Date, time and place of birth: January 24, 1943, at 5:47 p.m., Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.*

Date, time, place and cause of death: August 9, 1969, at 12:40 a.m., at 10050 Cielo Drive, Bel Air (just outside Beverly Hills city limits), California, U.S.A.** (Murdered - Multiple stab wounds to the chest and back)

Spouse: Roman Polanski (m. January 20, 1968 - August 9, 1969) (her death)
Wedding took place at the Chelsea, London registry office, King's Road, London, England.

Siblings: Debra Ann Tate
Patricia Gay Tate (b. 1957 - d. June 3, 2000, Palos Verdes, California, of breast cancer) (sisters)

Father: Paul James Tate (b. June 23, 1922, Houston, Texas - d. May 18, 2005, Coupeville, Washington, of congestive heart failure) (a U.S. Army officer)
Mother: Doris Gwendolyn Willett (b. 1924 - d. July 10th, 1992, Palos Verdes, California, of a brain tumor) (a pioneering advocate for crime victim's rights)

Note: Her father, Lt. Colonel Paul Tate, did not die in "Couperville" as a couple of sources erroneously report.

Burial site: Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.A.

Error corrections or clarifications

* Source: Birth certificate

** Note that the time of death on Sharon's death certificate (9:10 a.m.) was the time the police found the bloody scene at her house, not her actual time of death.

Biography - Credits

Sharon Tate was the eldest of three daughters born to Paul Tate, a U.S. Army intelligence officer, and Doris Gwendolyn Tate. As is the case with many military families, Paul's career took the family to numerous locales in the U.S. and Europe throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In her youth, Sharon Tate participated in many beauty pageants and talent shows, winning most, and setting the stage for her later acting career. The Tate's moved to Italy in the early 1960s when her father was reassigned there. While in high school, she appeared in several Italian productions as an extra. She also became acquainted with West Side Story actor Richard Beymer, who was in Italy shooting a film. He encouraged her to pursue acting and modeling, and gave her the number of his agent in Hollywood.

After her arrival in Hollywood, she began dating and eventually became engaged to celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring. They later broke off the engagement, but remained good friends. Even after her 1968 marriage to film director Roman Polanski, she and Jay maintained a close relationship. Her career had taken the usual route from modeling, to commercials, then television. She portrayed Mr. Drysdale's secretary for a couple of years on the popular TV series The Beverly Hillbillies, while also appearing in minor roles in various films. Over the course of the '60s, the bit parts she initially landed, grew into starring film roles. 1967's Valley of the Dolls brought her a good deal of attention. The motion picture was based on the best-selling Jacqueline Susann novel of the same name.

Sharon and her husband, film director Roman Polanski, lived at 10050 Cielo Drive, Bel Air, California (just outside Beverly Hills city limits). Polanski was best known for his films Repulsion (1965), and Rosemary's Baby (1968), but would go on to even greater fame directing Chinatown (1974), and won the Academy Award for 2002's The Pianist.

In August of 1969, a crazed, demented career criminal who led a ragtag band of followers that became known as the Manson Family, ordered members of his "family" to go to the former residence of an acquaintance, TV and record producer Terry Melcher, and massacre all those present. Manson hoped to become a professional musician-songwriter and had previously auditioned for Melcher, who had decided against signing him to a contract. Melcher, the son of actress/singer Doris Day, had moved from the home months before, but Manson continued with his plans to kill anyone found there regardless. His crazed band of hippies did precisely as the cold-blooded leader had ordered.

Roman Polanski was overseas the night of the first Manson killing spree. His pregnant wife was not so lucky. Sharon Tate was actually just days away from her expected delivery date. She was among those murdered, along with Steve Parent (Steven Earl Parent), Abigail Folger (heiress to the Folger coffee fortune), Jay Sebring (b. Thomas John Kummer) an internationally known hairstylist to the stars, and Wojciech Frykowski (frequently misspelled "Voytek Frykowski"), boyfriend of Abigail Folger. Each was killed in a particularly sadistic manner. The victims at the scene of the Tate killing spree, received a total of 102 stab wounds. It was Sharon Tate's blood that was used to spell out "PIG" on the front door. The autopsy revealed that Tate died as a result of sixteen stab wounds. Susan Atkins and Charles "Tex" Watson were directly responsible for taking Sharon's life.

One day later, it happened again. Members of Charles Manson's hippie cult committed another brutal pair of murders. The grisly murders would come to be known collectively as the Tate-LaBianca murders.

The gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders resulted in a high-profile trial that drew international attention for months. Charles Manson was found guilty and sentenced to death. Other members of the Manson Family who were put behind bars for their part in the crimes include, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. Charles "Tex" Watson, was also found guilty, but in a separate trial. In 1972, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty and Manson's sentence was automatically reduced to life in prison. As a result, he's been up for parole many times, but thankfully the parole board has wisely denied parole each time.

In the early 1980s, Sharon Tate's mother learned one of the Manson killers was preparing to lobby for parole aided by hundreds of signatures supporting the inmate's release. Incensed that one of the Tate-LaBianca murderers might actually be paroled after serving only a few years for such a heinous crime, Doris Tate began a campaign to keep her daughter's killers behind bars. She was the victim's rights pioneer who helped push through legislation allowing the presentation of victim impact statements at trials and parole hearings. She personally spoke at the parole hearing of one of her daughter's killers, and was successful in keeping them in prison. She founded the Coalition on Victim's Equal Rights (COVER) to improve the rights of crime victims and support victims of violent crime. Her 1992 death -- the result of a brain tumor -- brought her campaign to an end, but her daughter Patti carried on the fight. The Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau was named in her honor, and works to monitor criminal legislation, create better laws, and improve rights and support for victims of violent crime. Debra Tate, sister of Sharon Tate, was brought to the forefront of the battle when her sister Patti lost her fight with breast cancer in 2000.

Movie credits:
The Wheeler Dealers (1963)
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
The Sandpiper (1965)
Eye of the Devil (1967)
The Fearless Vampire Killers (a.k.a. The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck (1967)
Don't Make Waves (1967)
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
The Wrecking Crew (1969)
12 + 1 (a.k.a. The 13 Chairs) (1970)

TV guest appearances:
Mister Ed
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Television series:
The Beverly Hillbillies (1963-65)


The most in-depth of more than four dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile:
Roman by Polanski (Roman Polanski's autobiography, published in 1984)
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry (1974)

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